Skinny Daily Post


A few years ago I was invited to lead a weight loss group at a city department that consisted largely of social workers. Considering the challenging nature of their jobs and environment, many of the participants were exhausted and overweight. I was actually looking forward to working with them to see if we could develop a conversation around strategies for self-care, improved nutrition and stress reduction.

Unfortunately, the very first meeting, one of the members raised her hand and said ‘we have to talk about the fact that we are being poisoned by our food!’ I smiled weakly. She went on to name a particular food additive (which one is not important) and to decry its insidious presence in all the food around us.

Mentioning to the group that ‘I am a marketing communications strategist with no medical training,’ I politely suggested that ‘we each need to go on our own journey of self discovery to identify foods which we think may be harmful and to avoid them, while understanding that our group is about weight-loss strategies and solutions.’

This didnít really stop her. Each meeting, while I struggled to facilitate a discussion about good health habits, portion control, positive self-talk and the like, this person would bring in articles and mention news programs that backed up her claims. Although I never attempted to dismiss this information or treat it disrespectfully, I strove mightily to acknowledge her concerns and then move on to other topics.

Week after week, attendance dwindled, and while a handful of participants made amazing progress, I spent inordinate amounts of time dealing with the ‘poison’ issue. As I was new at the job, I didnít feel comfortable putting my foot down. I was firm and polite, but I couldnít seem to stop her persistent and desparate desire to discuss this problem. At the end of our three months, the group disbanded and the ‘poison’ lady weighed (to the very ounce) exactly what she weighed at the beginning.

It always seemed to me that this person was actually crying out for help, but at the same time was refusing to take ownership of the central issue. As to whether that food additive is truly poisonous, I donít know, but I am absolutely certain that if she had put her crusade aside long enough to increase her fresh fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, get more rest, and work on stress release she would have lost weight, gotten healthier and felt better.

In a group that Iím currently leading, one of the participants has begun to constantly interject that she has a particular food allergy (which one isnít important) and that the foods around us are all poisonous to her so that none of our strategies will work for her. Again, fresh fruits and vegetables, exercise, water and stress release would do wonders for her and not trigger this particular allergy. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

I understand from personal experience the anxiety and anger of being overweight, but I can’t help feeling that focusing on who or whatís to ‘blame’ can stop us from taking even simplest, most practical steps.

9 thoughts on “Whoís to blame

  1. Cindy says:

    I love buying things to organize my house. I have all these grand ideas and feel I know exactly what I need to do. Do I actually do the organization? Not really! The same thing is going on with these groups. You are getting people who know what to do – but just don’t really feel like doing it right now. They know they need to – just like I know I need to get my house organized. Don’t let them disrupt your class though. Explain that you would be more than willing to discuss the topic with them after class – but that you have an agenda for what needs to be discussed for the day.

  2. Greta says:

    No matter what the topic there is often someone listening who is eager to ask questions or make comments that are off-topic. When I was new to speaking to groups I had one meeting in which I only got about a third of my prepared material presented because I allowed the listeners to pull the discussion in many different directions. Since that night I learned that as the presenter and leader it’s up to me to keep the group focused. Both the “allergy” and the “poison” participants are creating an excuse for themselves, but it’s up to you to cut them off in the group meeting and offer a one on one session afterwards. At that face to face meeting you do NOT discuss “poison” or the “allergy” but rather you discuss why that person is trying to use the “allergy” as an excuse. Many people who are not working on weightloss have excuses. Common ones are: “I am too old, too fat, genetically incapable, physically unable to exercise, don’t have enough time, and am too stressed”. Most of us have excuses we trot out from time to time. What’s your favorite excuse for not eating right or exercising enough?

  3. Chris says:

    After spending over 2 1/2 years attending meetings every week, I have learned one thing, those that truly want to make a life change will, those that don’t find every reason, excuse, etc. to not be succesful, but tend to blame everything and everyone around them for their situation. I know, I have been there and sometimes still forget that I am the only one that can control my eating, my choices, my portions. Basically, I am in control of my own destiny. It is kind of hard to remember sometimes, but I think it is an essential key to weight loss and maintenance. Working at a weight loss group, one thing I try to remember is that even though some people never seem to understand that they are the only ones that can make the changes required, we still serve them and help them even though they don’t seem successful to us. In those 12 weeks the “poison” lady didn’t lose any weight, but she didn’t gain either and that may have been a triumph for her, even though to some it may seem like it wasn’t.

  4. QuinnLaBelle says:

    There is a real problem with a number of the sweeteners added to prepared food products, even the low-calorie ones. High Fructose Corn Syrup is especially problematic as it is not metabolized immediately, as cane sugar is, but goes straight to calories storage, better known as fat.

    Fortunately there’s an easy-peasy solution to this problem – eat more whole grains, veggies and fruits and avoid prepared food products. Drink water instead of soda, even the diet soda. (Tap water is real cheap, ya know.)

    Not only your waistline will shrink, but also your grocery bill.

  5. Debbi says:

    Those who choose to blame others and not take responsibility have simply not hit bottom with their weight issues. We all have THAT moment, when we get real and make the decision to do whatever it takes to solve the problem and find relief and release from our weight issues.

  6. Mary Jean says:

    That hitting bottom and finally becoming willing to do what evcer it takes is what I like to call the “gift of desperation”. I had to get truly pathetic and desperate before I was capable of going to any length to heal and recover from my compulsive eating. Before that, I too, made every excuse under the sun and had a ton of blame for everthing from the state of the food supply to the fashion industry for my woes. It was a whole lot easier to curse all that than to take responsibility for my 335# body and all the abuse I had heaped upon myself. These people have to become desperate enough yet. Hopefully they will.

  7. Sara says:

    Greta brings up a great point. There are always excuses not to exercise.

    My particular favorite is:

    But the blanket needs to dry before I can move it to use the stationary bike.

  8. stretchy says:

    It is amazing how people cling to excuses. My favorite is “The kids HAVE to have cookies everyday, I can’t torture the children by not having them in the house, then I eat the darn cookies because they are there!”

    I hear variations on this one all of the time. One woman laughingly suggested that her children would report her to family services as an abusive parent if she neglected to buy the cupcakes , cookies and so forth. Grandmas are famous for this one.
    If we eat the kid’s treats, then we have to play like the kids– get on the big wheel and race off, run through the sprinkler 40 times while screaming hysterically, race around the block, jump rope with friends, play tag…. sounds great…in theory…

  9. h says:

    Regarding to the “cookies for the kids” comment, I have always wondered why those who struggle with their weight still provide unhealthy food for their loved ones. Maybe the kids aren’t overweight, yet. But teaching them that eating sweets on a regular basis is “okay” is not good. You aren’t passing on the lessons you are learning about eating good healthy food and treating your body well. I know that kids need more calories because they are growing, but why not give them fresh fruit and hearty breads instead? Picking out only the fresh whole foods for yourself, then buying the kids pre-packaged junk food… it seems almost cruel to them.

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